During a time when the word “immigration” can silence a room in the office, Envoy Global aims to solve workplace issues with it. Richard Burke, the CEO of the global immigration services company, joined the organization in January 2015 and led the company through a major rebrand -from VISANOW to Envoy- in 2016. Ladders spoke with Burke on why he is so aligned with the company’s mission as well as how the current political climate has affected the Envoy Global business.
Envoy’s mission is to make it easier for people to work anywhere in the world. Why is that an important mission for you?
“As a company, we believe employees are happier, companies are more successful and the world is a better place when individuals are able to live and work anywhere that opportunity beckons. Some of the world’s most important advancements were made possible by immigrants, and it proves that when people have the chance to reach their full potential, they can accomplish amazing things.”
What are the biggest trends to watch in the recruiting landscape right now?
“Thanks to a tight labor market and a growing skills gap, it’s taking recruiters a longer time to fill roles. To combat these shortages, talent acquisition teams must start recruiting before a job is even posted. Candidates are shopping for jobs before they even know they want a new one. They’re looking at brands and companies that they can align themselves with and what a company brings to the table from a mission standpoint – whether it’s the social impact, a new innovative technical challenge or an industry disruption.
Artificial intelligence and data predicting technology are also proving to have huge value in areas where talent acquisition and HR traditionally spent their time heavily – such as compliance. By automating these tasks, there’s more time during the hiring process to build one-on-one connections with candidates.”
How has the current political climate and attitude around immigration played into your role and business at Envoy?
“We’ve seen a remarkable uptick in scrutiny of employment-based visa applications due to the current political landscape. Popular visas such as the H-1B are taking longer to receive approval and are frequently subject to Requests for Evidence (RFE) that increase cost, time and uncertainty for employers. Despite this increased oversight, employers have made it clear that they can’t find enough U.S.-born talent to meet their needs and that STEM workers create jobs through their innovations.
Immigration remains a necessity for employers, but if the process of securing a visa to the U.S. becomes too onerous or risky, it will either delay work at these companies or they’ll move overseas. At Envoy, we’re committed to avoiding these outcomes through technology. For example, we launched Envoy Compliance last October in response to customer concerns about staying in compliance with evolving federal immigration regulations.”
Has the drop in unemployment changed the business at Envoy?
“For the first time in history, we have more open jobs available than U.S. citizens to fill them. Industries undergoing digital transformation have been hit hard particularly hard by this shortage, because of the lack of qualified workers with STEM-related skills. As a result, demand for highly skilled foreign workers has risen sharply. At Envoy, we continue to work hard to help these employers secure the global talent they need in order to keep growing their businesses.”
How is the role of the CEO different from other leadership positions you’ve held?
“As a CEO, you have responsibilities to different constituencies with differing needs and opinions. When I’m making decisions, I need to consider each of them and give each the weight they deserve whether it’s employees, customers, investors, vendors, and board members. Sometimes all the interests align. It gets trickier when they don’t. My decisions and behavior frequently represent the final word, so it’s incredibly important to get things right.”
Has your position changed at all since you joined as CEO in 2015?
“My position has evolved constantly as Envoy continues to scale. The actions that get you to Point A won’t necessarily get you to Points B, C and D. As our company grows, I’ve had to tackle new challenges and make sure we have the right people and the right resources for success. Our commitment to innovation leads us to view ourselves as a work in progress and always seeking to improve. This mentality yields intellectual challenge and superior outcomes for those we serve.”
What’s the best piece of advice someone has given you?
“When I was in college, I was fortunate enough to get to know Sargent Shriver. In addition to being a politician, he had a remarkable career that included starting the peace corps and leading the War on Poverty. He deeply inspired me and many others, and what made him a great man and leader was his belief in two things: first, that people are capable of amazing things. Second, people must be treated with dignity and respect. I try to honor Sarge by creating an environment at work where people feel valued and inspired to make the most of their potential.”
What’s the most surprising aspect of being CEO?
“I always heard that the CEO role was a lonely one and I was skeptical. While I consider myself incredibly lucky to be a CEO, particularly at a company doing good and important work, the job can be lonely. I seek to mitigate this via accessibility, candor and transparency—both to our board and my colleagues.”
Can you describe your work culture at Envoy? What’s special about it?
“The work culture at Envoy is special because we share a common passion for immigration — some have even gone through the immigration process firsthand and used our technology. All of our employees come into the office every day with the knowledge that behind all the applications and case files we handle there are real people. To remind us of the important and ennobling mission we have large, museum-quality portraits of foreign nationals we’ve served. These are individuals whose lives have been transformed because they were able to find a great job opportunity abroad or start and raise a family in the country of their choosing. The people we’ve hired have immense drive and creativity to make our mission of helping people work anywhere in the world a reality.”
What advice would you give someone interviewing at Envoy?
“Technical and industry skills are important, but a truly successful Envoy employee is someone who can be thorough and responsive to customers and their own teams. Because we value transparency in the immigration process, we also make that a key goal within our own organization. A willingness to collaborate and share new ideas is critical.”